Faldbakken studied psychology at Oslo University, and then worked as a journalist. He visited a number of countries, working variously as a bookkeeper, sailor, and factory worker, and began writing books in 1967 while living in Paris.
He was editor of the literary magazine Vinduet (The Window) between 1975 and 1979.
His sons Stefan Faldbakken and Matias Faldbakken have achieved recognition as a film director and a novelist respectively.
His books have been published in 21 countries, translated to 18 languages and have sold two million copies worldwide.